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02 July 2007


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Nice pot. Covers a lot of ground.

The FBI is the appropriate intelligence agency to monitor enemies on US soil. They tracked Soviets during the Cold War, Nazis during WWII. They are not perfect, but have generally performed adequately to exceptionally. There have also been notable failures, whose lessons may not have been adequately internalized by the FBI or all of its personnel.

Posse Comitatus is one of those 'quaint' rights that should be inviolable. What would be the point of fighting bin Laden, if we then bestow sharia law on ourselves? Thanks, no thanks. When needed, there are ample ways to delegate federal officers to local jurisdiction, and military personnel to civilian control. It seems that there is far too much interest in sidestepping Posse Comitatus recently - it should send chills down the spine of any democracy to hear such contemplation.

What is not needed is yet another proliferation of intelligence agencies, or another layer of bureaucracy. If anything, more people with more capabilities out in the field and analyzing the data, and moderation on the technology front.

The CIA was/is supposed to coordinate foreign intelligence gathering among all the different players. Interservice rivalries have not been tamed sufficiently. We can already see that Homeland Security is not forging better integration. Beyond lack of sharing, this can lead to duplication of effort, diffusion of resources, counterproductive work, and greater confusion.

There seems to be a real need to sharpen up and discriminate among all of the potential domestic targets. The Earth Liberation Front may not be your cup of tea, but they are not in the same league as al Qaeda; therefore they should not be the primary target and receive the level of resources they currently do.

Similarly, I can understand wanting to take a look at 'Grandmothers Knitting for Peace' to see what's up, but once you realize they're as advertised, maybe you could delete the files on their personal info, and not try to turn their old library fines into a conspiracy charge. I'm sure they would welcome the occasional, declared, visit to remind them to be aware of potential infiltrators who might subvert their legal activities.

Finding a ragtag group of malcontents, providing them with some bullshit political theories, pointing them at some targets, then supplying them with arms and explosives, is also a very poor use of resources. For one thing, they might get lucky. I certainly hope that counter terrorism through agents provocateurs isn't the primary game plan here. And certainly not on American soil, entrapping citizens.

Overseas, the examples of SOF assisting democratic culture formation while simultaneously fighting authoritarian forces should yield good results. Any individual is a potential ambassador. Their actions, all of them, will be judged. Even sub rosa conduct may be exposed at some point; how has been carried out may affect the relations between nations, as well as public mood.

As you say, ultimately it comes down to the people you send out to do the work. Iraq and al Qaeda seem such failures in large part because of poor intelligence, as well as our choice of whom to work with.

In Iraq, we didn't trust the quality defectors we had - and burned them, then we trusted the INC which was demonstrably trying o play the US, and then turns out to have deeper links to Iran! Of course Saddam was our guy once, too. We also enable the rise of both al Qaeda and the Taliban, but cut ties once the Soviets left Afghanistan.

The US needs to see its intelligence missions as a long term endeavor, rather than mission specific, hit and miss jobs. If we had paid more care in recruiting, in strategizing, in the care, education and management of those we interact with, we might now be able to discuss the finer points of the legislative process or cultural exchange with many who are now our sworn enemies. It might be naive to try to turn over a new leaf, but can more of the same really lead to success?

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